Saturday, 8 August 2009

Our contributor this week is Agathe, from Le Bar du Vent. Agathe is a jeweller from Bordeaux, France and she tells us about internet selling in Europe.

Tell me a bit about your journey into "hand made" and why do you make jewellery?

I can't say I remember journeying into handmade— it's more like handmade was always part of my life journey. I have always admired and envied people who make "things" with their hands. I think I was brought up that way, but there is also something very idosyncratic in my curiosity about crafts, and my desire to explore them.
Since childhood, I have always dabbled in this or that craft. I have a particular fondness for everything pen and paper, but also very early on wanted to make distinctive clothing or accessories, experimenting with sewing, crochet and knitting.Until I was well over thirty, it was an on and off thing, and then seven years ago, I dived into cross-stitching, and stitched away my leisure time for about three years, spending hours on end listening to TV...
I make jewellery for a number of positive reasons (some listed above) but also negative ones. My love for pearls, above all gems to me, drew me to explore technique after technique, and what I like about it is that it allows me to combine my love of words and style and uniqueness. I loathe the fact that you see some much of the same everywhere around, in all shops, and it is really important for me to keep changing, to keep feeding my creativity, however humble my craft...
It may sound corny, but once I have made a piece I really like, one that just came into my hands out of the materials or some idea, word, or image, once it has given me pleasure to make it, to look at it and touch it, I don't really feel an urge to keep it. I enjoy making custom pieces, with someone specific in mind, it makes me most happy when someone chooses one of my favourites. It feels good, it feels like sharing something, fleetingly, simply.

What are your favourite materials to work with? Pearls, first and foremost; then copper, silver, as well as organic fabrics and threads, but also glass and crsytal, as well as vintage (I mean genuine vintage) or ancient materials and patterns.

What inspires you to make jewellery and which designers do you admire?
I didn't go to art school and have little knowledge of designers in "my field". However, now that I think of it, there is one jeweller whose work probably planted the tiny seed of jewellery-making in my mind, when I was much younger. His name is
Jean Vendôme and I stumbled across his fabulous shop-windows, rue Saint Honoré in Paris, when I was about twenty; shop windows full of gorgeous organic-looking creations made using scrumptious— yes, you've guessed it— pearls! I'm also very sensitive to the use of age-old symbols and to simple, elegant shapes and subtle colours. In my own work, sometimes I am inspired by a word or a phrase or a pun; sometimes, I just want to put some material to good use. Other times I am just trying my hand at some new tool or technique and the limits of my tentative skill stimulate me to come up with something interesting yet doable...
Even though I spend a lot of time "checking out" fellow Etsians and DaWandians, it is always with an eye to technique, and never intending to copy their work. Even when I use a beginner's kit (as I did recently with silver clay) I just have to do my own thing. So much so it's actually silly— but I'm just not interested in "easy"...

Which outlets (both in-line and in the real world) do you sell your jewellery at and how does Dawanda differ from Etsy? Right now, I only sell directly and on
DaWanda and Etsy. Really looking forward to Folksy opening up to us continentals and considering a couple of other sites, one French and one American, but I don't want to scatter to much.The differences I see between Etsy and DaWanda have a lot to do with the fact that Etsy is older and more popular, when DaWanda is more recent, and is supposedly more focused on crafts since it excludes second-hand / vintage items. On Etsy, I like the fact it runs smoothly, the quality of design and creation and the vast choice, but I find the forums very unfriendly, some people being easily dismissive. On DaWanda, I like the Old World touch and the general friendliness. It's a shame that the English site is not more active though. I also get the impression that the German site features most quality design and German is not my forte...
The French and English sites feel overcrowded by supplies and not-so-handmade stuff... I wish more real designers and artisans would join and stick it out.

What tips would you give to artists who sell on a site that is not in their country? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I think it's important to be ready to adapt and not expect others to be at your beck and call. Explore, look around, read the FAQ before complaining or asking the obvious...
Remember that the internet is very human. It's people at the other end. Always.Don't even think about it if you can't understand and speak the language— or get competent help— checking out the forums is a good way to make sure that you do. Or not.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Somewhere else.

What advice would you give to artists who are going into business?
Don't do it for love or money. Do it because you have to.Check out the forums. Also, the other day, I was reminded (but I cannot remember by what...) that in old French, the word "commerce", now mostly used for "trade", used to mean relation, connection, company. All to do with fellow humans. Not stuff, not money— mankind.

Le Bar Du Vent

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